As a newcomer to the shipping industry, chances are you will be overwhelmed by your first exporting operation unless you are familiar enough with the practices and regulations governing this specific kind of shipping activity. Therefore, here is a short introduction to exports and the exporting activity to help you start your little adventure on the shipping market on the right foot.
Tip no. 1. Find a reliable agent
The people you choose to partner up with in your business will play a very important role in your carrying out your shipping activity successfully and efficiently. What you are looking for is a reliable business partner - whether a shipping company, a clearing one, a forwarding one or a removal one -, a business partner that is efficient in their turn and has a good reputation on the profile market. Of course, as expected, the more reputed a company, the higher the prices will be. However, that is a kind of investment you want to make for in the end, you are investing in the safety of your goods.
Tip no. 2. Choose an experienced agent
Next, as a newcomer to the shipping industry, you need your business partners to be experienced and able to provide the necessary expertise. Therefore, you should always do a background check on the companies whose services you intend to use. The first place to check will be the Internet, so try Googling "freight forwarder associations" or "international movers associations" and see what you get. Take a look around different websites of different agents. The local media is also a good place to look when doing your research, so take a look in the local magazines and newspapers too. Last but not least, search for feedback from previous clients the agents you are interested in have had. Then you can make a choice confidently.
Tip no. 3. Make your requirements very clear
Once you have chosen an agent to do business with, you need to start building a proper business relationship with them. One of the keys to that is to make your requirements very clear from the very beginning. In the end, the agent's role is to make sure you have everything required to carry out your exporting activity successfully. This includes documents, licences, permits and so on.
Tip no. 4. Look into your agent's activity and costs
In order for things to go the way you want them to, you need to gain a full understanding of your agent's activity and the costs associated with it. You need to know what exactly you are paying for and how much you should be paying for it. This way, you minimise the risks of finding yourself in any unpleasant situations at the time of your goods being released or at the time of payment. Do not make the very common mistake of thinking you are not entitled to ask questions. It will only make you an easy target for cunning agents whose only aim is to rip you off.
Tip no. 5. Familiarise yourself with the participants to the exporting activity
As a newcomer, you need to familiarise yourself with the exporting process, which is very complex and involves a number of different participants. Researching the roles of each of the participants to it will ease your job as an exporter considerably. For starters, the removal company, also known as the haulier, is responsible with packing your goods and removing them. They may also handle the customs clearance for you, in case they have a customs clearance licence. Otherwise, the freight forwarder, or the customs clearing agent, will take care of that particular aspect. Next, there is the shipping line. They are responsible with ensuring the transportation of your goods between the port of loading and that of discharge, where they will have either agents or offices. The shipping line agent at the port of discharge will issue the cargo release to be provided to your agent, as ensured by the customs clearing agent. Often times, the shipping lines are picked by the shippers themselves, who also take on the negotiation of the freight rates.
Tip no. 6. Learn your own responsibilities as an exporter
Of course, it is your own contribution that constitutes the decisive factor. That contribution starts at the insurance. You need to take precautions when it comes to your cargo, which is why insuring it with an international coverage insurance company is highly recommended. A little reminder: Once the policy has been issued, make sure you keep the original copy. Otherwise, your potential losses will not be covered. Should you be shipping personal effects, you need to check whether the packing company agents have inventoried your items accurately (i.e. listing the items and taking note of any potential damage to them) before you sign the corresponding documents.
Tip no. 7. Check all the relevant transport details
Another piece of research you need to do concerns the transport details such as the route your shipment will take between the port of loading and that of discharge or the estimated delivery time. The latter is particularly relevant with LCL shipments and in the context of containers being replaced during shipping.
Tip no. 8. Know the export documentation requirements
Last but not least, you need to note that any exporting activity you might intend to carry out will be conditioned by your compliance with the documentation requirements. Therefore, it is crucial that you learn exactly what documents you need to provide and be provided throughout the exporting process. Once your cargo has been loaded on the ship, you must be provided a bill of lading in original or a waybill, depending on the type of freight transportation you have opted for. Should your shipment be a personal effects one, you need to prove your identity as the consignee or assign somebody else to take delivery in order for your goods to be released upon reaching the destination. The bill of lading or the waybill will be accompanied by copies of the customs documentation, copies of the wharf-age documentation and weighbridge certificates, sampling analysis ones and, last but not least, a certificate of origin.
Now that you are familiar with the basic aspects of the exporting activity and the main requirements of the exporting process, you should be able to set out on your new adventure with great confidence. Good luck!